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Arts and Entertainment

LAist Interview: The Mugglenet Guys

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Photo courtesy of Mugglenet

Emerson Spartz and Ben Schoen are, respectively, the founder and webmaster of the world’s most popular Harry Potter website, MuggleNet. Emerson was 12 when he founded the website in 1999 and just graduated from the University of Notre Dame. Ben has been webmaster at MuggleNet, which gets 27 million hits monthly, since he was in high school. He’ll begin his junior year at Notre Dame this fall.

In their first book,'s What Will Happen in Harry Potter 7, they proved to be incredibly accurate with their predictions and the book spent three months on the New York Times best-seller list. Their new book, Harry Potter Should Have Died, is a debate of all the controversial questions from the Harry Potter series. They tackle some of the most complex philosophical elements and still have time to ponder the silly with some magical world what-ifs that are sure to amuse. It’s not a long book, just about 200 pages, but any Harry Potter fan will enjoy the read.

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Emerson and Ben are first to admit they are the luckiest fans in the world. They have not only met and interviewed J.K. Rowling but have attended all the Harry Potter movie premieres. LAist sat down with them this week to get the inside scoop on Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.

So, you got to attend the premier of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince in New York earlier this month. What was your favorite thing about the new movie?

ES: I really liked the humor. I think there's more humor in this movie than in the other five combined.

BS: I liked the acting. I feel like the kids have gotten a lot better and of course the adult roles, like Michael Gambon as Dumbledore and Alan Rickman as Snape, were as great as ever.

You can tell that the child actors are no longer just kids who got lucky. They're actually actors now.

LAist: It's funny, my sister was reading Half Blood-Prince again last night while I was reading Harry Potter Should Have Died, and she read aloud a part describing Snape's mouth curling into a mocking smile. Alan Rickman's mouth curls, it's fantastic. Are there any surprises in the movie?

ES: Not really, actually. I think that they did an exceptional job making smart cuts when necessary, but they stayed very true to the story. For the most part, they kept all of the relevant story lines.

LAist: One of the questions you debate in your book is, "What is the Cheesiest Movie Moment?" Is there a contender for that title in Half-Blood Prince?

BS: I'm trying to think if there was anything particularly cheesy. I mean there was a scene in the Slug Club party where Neville's a waiter, and that was kinda cheesy, but other than that, I don't think so. In the past movies, there were several times where there was a cheesy scene that stood out, but in this one, there really wasn't. I feel like the production team, the director, they've all had a lot of practice now and they've really gotten it down to perfection.

LAist: In your latest book you say that Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban really set the standard for what a Harry Potter movie should be. Do you think Half-Blood Prince is even better?

ES: Yeah, I do. The Prisoner of Azkaban was, before this movie, my favorite of the movies. While Prisoner of Azkaban did set a new standard for the Harry Potter movies, this one took it to a whole new level.

LAist: What scenes from the Half-Blood Prince book should have made it into the movie?

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ES: It's tough. Certainly people wanted to see Dumbledore's funeral, which wasn't in the movie. That was a cut that they needed to make, but for the most part there weren't any vital subplots or story lines that weren't covered.

BS: I would have like to see more kissing... but that's just me.

LAist: Can you tell us about some of the new faces in Half-Blood Prince?

ES: There's a really fun storyline going on between Ron Weasley, Harry's best friend, and a relatively new character for moviegoers, Lavender Brown. She falls in love with Ron and proceeds to have a short onscreen romance that is, well, she's so over the top it's delightfully sickening.

LAist: Sounds like they had fun with this one. I'm looking forward to seeing the movie. Let's talk a little about the series. What's the moral of the story of Harry Potter?

BS: Love conquers all.

ES: That's why our argument in our book, despite the title, is that J.K. Rowling was right to allow Harry to live a long, full and happy life, because the overarching theme of the books is the question, is love the most powerful thing in the universe? And the conclusion, inescapably, is yes. So it would be inconsistent for J.K. Rowling to craft this message and then kill Harry off in the end after all he's sacrificed.

LAist: Is there anything that you wish had been resolved in book seven that wasn't?

ES: Yeah, in the epilogue, J.K. Rowling never mentions the career paths of the main characters, with the exception of Neville Longbottom. And because the series takes place over seven books in seven years at Hogwarts, and the focus is so much on education (though she did explain in interviews later what happened to the main characters) that's something I feel could have been better resolved in the actual book.

LAist: If you could have any magical power or wizard accessory, what would it be?

ES: I would be able to Apparate.

BS: Yeah, we don't like lines at airports. I would like an invisibility cloak.

ES: Yeah, you would. (laughs)

LAist: You've been pretty warmly embraced by J.K. Rowling. Did you ever worry her reaction to your writing would be negative?

BS: It was a worry, at first.

ES: It's always a concern, but I think that our passion and enthusiasm for her creations manifests itself in our writing and we assume it to be reflected.

LAist: Do you think that anything you've written influenced any of her later books?

BS: Yeah, I think she read our last book and then wrote the last book based on that. (laughs) No, I doubt it. She's had this stuff planned out for a while. I don't think we're important enough to influence the actual plot.

LAist: You mentioned J.K. Rowling gave details on the career paths of the main characters in an interview given after the seventh book was released, and in fact a number of details have spilled out since then, including that Dumbledore is gay. Did you see that coming?

ES: There was never any overt sign of Dumbledore's homosexuality in the books, despite many readers saying that they had known all along. I never heard a single theory about Dumbledore being gay until she announced it. And I heard a lot of theories.

BS: Yeah, we went around two summers ago from bookstore to bookstore and heard almost every theory possible regarding Harry Potter and now, it's funny, in hindsight people are saying they knew, which is a lie.

LAist: Do you think we'll hear about Minerva McGonagall's past love life or that anyone else from the series?

BS: Maybe as a side note in the Encyclopedia issue, or if somebody asks J.K. Rowling.

LAist: So what's going to happen to Mugglenet after the last movie comes out?

BS: Delete. (dead pans) Just kidding.

ES: We have a 300 million dollar theme park under construction in Florida, J.K. Rowling's still writing the encyclopedia and there will always be new people being exposed to the books for the first time.

LAist: So love conquers all and Harry Potter will never die. Any thing else you'd like to say.

BS: Yeah. Don't be a Muggle.

Interview by Courtney Quinn

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